Martin Prendergast’s report from Collier Park, Wrexham

Wales U21 – 1
Republic of Ireland U21 – 2

Match report from Collier Park, Wrexham

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Collier Park, Wrexham

We had the lot at Wrexham’s Collier Park this afternoon, driving wind, sleet and showers….. but at the end of the 90 minutes It was Ireland who were just about worthy victors against Wales.

This was the first time both nations had met at U21 level, it took a while for Ireland, playing against the wind in the first half, to settle and they conceded a goal early on when a neat passage of play down the right resulted in a tidy finish from Joe Adam’s.

Ireland failed to create any notable chances in the first 45 but once their two stand out midfielders Luca Connell and Conor Noss got more into the game, Ireland offered more of a threat in the attacking third. It was Noss who created the equaliser for Jonathan Afolabi to tap in on the 76th minute. Within the space of a few minutes Ireland were ahead when a back pass from Wales Morgan Bayes lead to a calamitous own goal.

Jim Crawford handed debuts to 11 players over the course of the game, the first warm-up for the 2023 European Championship which kicks off in September.

In defence, centre back pairing McGuinness and Omobamidele were solid and commanding, vocal too, with the latter especially calling for calm of his team mates, encouraging them to “keep the ball” in the first half which allowed them to settle. It was notable at the end of the game that McGuinness was congratulated and warmly embraced on his performance by Ireland coach John O’Shea .

Gavin Kilkenny’s introduction in the 69th minute was also a key moment in the game, he seemed to bring an energy to the team and drive to seek an equaliser which duly game a few minutes after his introduction. This encouraged the belief in his team mates to press and push on.

Captain Lee O’Connor, in his 65th under age cap for Ireland, was also assured throughout and could have scored a goal himself to mark the occasion.

Other notable stand out performers were Ferry and goal scorer Afolabi.

Jim Crawford will be delighted that his team came back from going a goal behind, his midfield were mobile and always wanted the ball, and one could see several similar patterns of play developing that are synonymous with Kenny’s team at senior level.

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IRELAND – B Maher; L O’Connor, M McGuinness, A Omobamidele, M O’Malley (G Kilkenny 69); L Connell, L Watson (C Grant 74); A Gilbert (T Wright 69), J Afolabi (E Varian 86), C Noss, W Ferry

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Martin Prendergast

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